If I were to tell you that I ate delicate flowers, thai basil and soy air at El Capote you’d probably mistake me (and El Capote) for eco-hemp-hippies. And I too thought that I’d left my best tie-dyed muslin t-shirt at home when I read things like ‘aire de soya‘ on the menu!
But I could not have been more wrong.
Delicate, subtle dishes – executed with finesse but packed with flavour and exciting on the eye.
When writing about El Capote I tend to write about both the food and wine. On this occasion, however, I am only going to focus on the food as this was the point of the evening. And with seven dishes that we were treated to, I am only going to write about those that created the biggest impression at my table.
As Ian stood in the threshold to El Capote we were made to wait outside; each of us eagerly anticipating promised wonders. Peeking around him we could see the converted interior with its black and white table cloths, wine and sherry glasses on tables. Classy.
Heeding previous comments, upon arrival we were given a glass of Prossecco and asked to take our seats where there were banana crisps and cashew nuts for us to nibble on whilst we waited.
If they had not been advertised as banana crisps I would have assumed they were ordinary potato crisps. They were sliced thin and very crispy and salty. The cashew nuts coated in a spicy Japanese seasoning called Shichimi Togarashi which were incredibly moreish.
Whilst we ploughed our way through these snacks Ian explained to us the vision he was trying to create at El Capote with the help from Chef Lede.
Inspired by Chef Ferran Adrià, Head Chef at El Bulli, they created a ‘nouvelle cuisine’ menu where ingredients were transformed and textures, temperatures or forms were modified. This approach to cooking being one where deconstructed, a dish would preserve its essence but its appearance would be radically different from the original. Nothing is what it seems.
“You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland”
Our first step into this culinary experience was to cleanse our palates. And in the style of the evening – a lemon sorbet would have been too mundane – we were handed a green bud to chew. Nothing unusual about a bud, I hear you say, but this was no ordinary bud. It was a Szechuan button.
Like something out of The Matrix, we were coaxed into putting this green, inoffensive bud into our mouths. At first, a very grassy taste which is then followed by a tingling and numbing sensation which I can only describe as having a 9V battery on your tongue. Then salivation, and, finally a fresh, clean finish. The bubbles of Prossecco felt like mini explosions on my tongue.
Cappuccino of Foie with Port and Parmesan Foam
With tingling mouths no one knew what to expect next as the espresso cups were set down infront of each each of us.
Guided by Ian to take a bold scoop we plunged our spoons into the billowy parmesan foam making sure to scrape from the bottom and were rewarded by a delicate and dreamy foie mousse. The parmesan foam, another of Adrià’s culinary innovations where the main ingredient is mixed in a syphon bottle with N2O cartridges and compressed, was subtle and complemented the foie deliciously. But scraping the bottom ensured that we got a nuance of sweet port, reminiscent of caramelised onions, that finished the dish off beautifully. Absolutely sublime and my favourite dish if the evening.
El Huerto de Lede
A solitary potato growing in soil with asparagus and flowers growing out of the soil. The only thing this dish needed was Spring’s blue sky and sunshine!
Let me deconstruct this dish so that you can fully appreciate the talent and artistry of Chef Lede.
Beneath the soil is a potato puree. The soil is actually created from a mushroom rubble. At first I thought that this was freeze dried however I am not sure about this.
The young asparagus and flowers can be seen growing around the potato.
But the surprise was that as you cut into the potato it was stuffed with ox tail in its own jous! At our table we all agreed that we felt that this dish could have done with either a sprinkling of salt over the top of the potato or greater seasoning in the puree as it was quite bland, especially after the strong flavours and excitement of previous dishes.
Merluza wrapped in Aonori, served with red curry, almejas de Carril, olive oil caviar and topped with aire de soya
This was another visual treat as well as a beautifully flavoured dish. The hake, meaty in texture was well supported by the red curry. Its flavour was just there and even the wimpiest of spice eaters could have managed this very delicate balance of flavours. The soya air and the olive oil caviar which having researched this was another of Chef Adrià’s innovations, giving the dish texture.
Both Ian and Chef Lede should be congratulated on what was a truly special night. We were not just fed but each dish was so precise in its execution and the high standard remained consistent throughout. It was an experience not just dinner.
Chef Ferran Adrià would be very proud of what has been achieved at El Capote, Gibraltar.
I am already excited about the next one.